A week or so before Christmas, we had a little party at work. It was just a mid-afternoon holiday get-together for the dozen or so of us that work in the same area, with a few snacks and drinks. Or so I thought. When I walked into the office where the festivities were being held, I was greeted by dozens of bottles of various kinds of booze lined up for the choosing. When I voiced my surprise, my co-worker Maya announced that she had brought in the contents of her liquor cabinet, because as of Tuesday she was going to be pregnant.
I knew that Maya and her same-sex partner had been using IVF with a sperm donor to conceive. I also knew that they'd previously had at least one miscarriage, and that it had been her partner who had been carrying the baby. I however didn't know that they'd tried again, nor that they had decided to switch up who would carry. I smiled politely and wished her good luck, all the while thinking that maybe getting rid of all of her booze was perhaps a little premature. After all, there's nothing like a good stiff drink after a BFN.
Well, if I'd thought that clearing out her alcohol was a bit odd, Maya's next comments really threw me for a loop. In a perfectly serious voice, she told me that if I didn't mind having a baby that looked like her, I was welcome to her leftover embryos. I chuckled a little before realizing she meant it, thinking that this comment also gave me a new piece of info: they'd done another egg retrieval, with her eggs this time. She's 38. I said thanks, but then suggested that maybe we should wait and see how her transfer went first.
"Oh, well, the doctor says our embryos are really great. We have five of them, and we're only putting two back, so you're welcome to the other ones. Seriously."
Now I was curious. Thinking that five 5-day blasts is nothing to scoff at, I asked what day her embryos had been frozen on.
"I don't remember the date. Sometime a month or so ago."
I clarified that I was asking what day of embryonic development. Did they freeze on Day 3 or Day 5?
"It must have been Day 5. They're all really great embryos. They all have four cells."
This is the point at which I realized that despite obviously having gone through a retrieval and transfer cycle with her partner and another retrieval recently herself, Maya didn't have a sweet fucking clue about IVF. Internally I was rolling my eyes and shaking my head, wanting to tell her that there was no way her embryos were Day 5 at only four cells. Either that, or she had some damn shitty Day 5 embryos. Instead, I wished her good luck again, poured myself a generous drink from her stash, and changed the subject.
Two weeks later, she was pregnant.
Thinking about Maya's attitude before her transfer, I can't help but marvel at the unbridled confidence she had that the transfer would work. What must that be like? To not even entertain the thought that it might fail, to the point that you're offering your leftover embryos? Doesn't she have the Little Voice?
You know the Little Voice. It's the one that whispers all those negative thoughts, despite your absolute best efforts to stay positive. To envision yourself pregnant, or holding your baby. The Little Voice whispers that you are stupid to hope. It tells you that everything else has failed, and this will fail too. That your embryos are abnormal, or that there's something wrong with your uterus that will prevent implantation. Worst of all, the Little Voice tells you that the embryo you had placed in your uterus yesterday is already dead. You just don't know it yet. The Little Voice tells you that a happy ending is something that happens for other people, but not for you.
You tell the Little Voice to shut up. You try to drown it out by closing your eyes and visualizing your embryo, the little squirming ball of cells that is part you and part the man you love, snuggling in tight in the fluffy lining of your uterus. Holding on. Implanting. Growing. Living.
Last week, Maya came into my office to speak to a colleague. I asked her how she was doing and she responded that she was starting to worry. She wasn't having any symptoms. I told her not to freak out too much, and that I knew plenty of women who'd gone a long time before having any pregnancy symptoms at all.
Unfortunately, Maya had picked the right time to start worrying. A few days later she stopped by my desk again, stating sadly that "the glue didn't stick". She had started bleeding; the pregnancy was over. I expressed my sympathies, and chatted a bit with her about their next steps. She and her partner are planning to try again in the spring with her remaining embryos. I can't help but wonder if next time, she'll hear the Little Voice like I do. For her sake, I hope not.